In recognition of her support of Poland's Solidarity movement 30 years ago, Donna Baranski-Walker recently received the European Solidarity Committee's Medal of Gratitude from Lech Walesa, former president of Poland.
Ms. Baranski-Walker, a leading member of the Rotary Club of Woodside/Portola Valley, received the medal Aug. 31 in a ceremony in Gdansk, Poland. The event was part of the 30th anniversary of the Polish Solidarity movement.
When she was 25 years old and working as an engineer near Chicago, she helped found Support of Solidarity-Chicago (S.O.S.-Chicago). The group raised funds for the Solidarity underground in Poland, sending care packages and money, and smuggling shortwave radio communications equipment to the Solidarity movement.
Ms. Baranski-Walker, a resident of Redwood City, is a second-generation Polish-American. In 1979, as a undergraduate engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was part of a U.S./ U.S.S.R. cultural exchange to Siberia, after which she studied at Poland's Jagiellonian University for her junior year abroad.
She graduated from MIT with a degree in electrical engineering and used to be on the Silicon Valley fast track. "I've worked for MIT, Stanford and SRI evaluating new technologies, filing patents, and attracting venture capital funding," she said in a 2002 article in The Almanac.
In 2003, she left the business world to form the Rebuilding Alliance, a nonprofit organization that supports Israel and Palestinian citizens who work together in rebuilding Palestinian homes, playgrounds and schools.
The Rebuilding Alliance shares an office and store space in San Mateo with Reach and Teach. The store sells peace and social justice learning materials and organic fair trade olive oil from Palestine.
Ms. Baranski-Walker joined the Woodside/Portola Valley Rotary Club in 1999 and has served as its president and as chair of its International Service Committee.